A mother who witnessed her son’s first and last breaths explains how connecting with people online helped in her journey of care.
Debbie Wieck had worked as a nurse for close to two decades when her beloved son, Jacob, was diagnosed with sarcoma – “but nothing prepares you for caring for your child, who is only 20 years old and at the end stage of their life”, she says.
A heartbroken Debbie clearly remembers the moment doctors told them there was nothing more they could do to treat Jacob’s cancer – a rare type that occurs in the bones and soft tissues. “We sat in silence after the medical team had walked out of the room, stared at one another as mum and son and cried together.”
Jacob accepted the news “with the wisdom, strength, bravery and patience of a man much older than his 20 years”, says Debbie. “He was never one for needing to talk to specialised people about the way he was feeling. When he was asked if he wanted to talk to anyone, he’d always decline and say to me later, ‘We’re doing okay, aren’t we, Mum – just you and me?’
Although the close-knit mother and son made a good team, “I did seek out other people to talk to,” concedes Debbie, who cared at home for Jacob throughout his illness, including the final 37 days of his life. “I needed to connect to other parents who had dealt with similar situations and scenarios.”
As well as joining specific sarcoma groups on Facebook, she and Jacob read positive and inspiring stories of people getting cured and getting on with their lives. “Reading these posts gave us hope. It was when I was on my own that I would read the not-so-pleasant stories and begin friendships with parents online, comparing stories and asking for advice.”
Despite her nursing skills and the great support she had from family and friends, Debbie was “still so ill-prepared for seeing her beautiful brown-eyed boy struggling”. Talking to others, she says, helped her cope – right up until Jacob’s death at home, surrounded by those who had loved and cared for him.
“I still have connections online with some of these people today,” says Debbie. “Social media has helped pave the way for those harsh and true experiences of end-of-life stories to be spoken, heard and shared.”
Click here to read Debbie Wieck’s full story about caring for her son, Jacob. Learning about the lived experience of others who have ‘walked this path’ can help support people who are currently caring for a dying person, giving them a sense of what to expect and connecting them with key services.
LifeCircle’s digital platform
With 30 years’ experience in supporting people who are caring for someone through the last stages of life, LifeCircle Australia recognises that there is a gap in the human, social and emotional aspects at the end of life and an overall lack of support for those who are caring.
In response, LifeCircle has launched a digital platform that provides access to information that is typically hard to find and connects people to others who have a lived experience of caring for a dying person. It also enables those who are caring to have a support session with a LifeCircle guide – someone who can share the knowledge and wisdom they have gained through their own experience of caregiving. They can help prepare and support people, gently guiding them through some of the challenging situations they may face, and assist in accessing the information, tools and resources they might need.
LifeCircle’s aim is to help people caring for someone in the last stages of life be better prepared and supported, so they make might the right decisions for themselves, their families and the person they are caring for, allowing them to make the most of their time together.
For more information or to make a booking with a guide, visit LifeCircle.
Speak to a LifeCircle guide
“I hope that in meeting you, we can walk alongside you in the situation that you’re in and help you in your day-to-day work with the person you are caring for. Being able to talk together about it takes all the fear away.”
– BRIDGET McKERN, LifeCircle Guide
Bupa x LifeCircle partnership
Every day, thousands of Australians are encountering the last stages of life or caring for someone close to them who is – but people do not always experience the last stages of life in the way they would wish and those who are caring for them are often unprepared, unsupported and overwhelmed. Bupa and LifeCircle are trusted partners, working together to help give people more choice and control over their experience – ultimately, enabling them to make the most of their time together, particularly in the last 12-16 weeks of life.